Tutorial: drawstring tote bag

 

We made drawstring tote bags this week at our fourth zakka sewing class.  What is a drawstring tote bag?  Well, as the name would imply, it is a tote bag with a drawstring closure.  A picture below will say it all.  These hybrid bags appear in many Japanese craft books as children’s lunch bags, etc.

photo of a finished drawstring tote bag

This tutorial will make a fully lined tote bag in the above photo, about 8″ wide, 9″ tall, and 3.5″ deep.  A little bigger than a child’s lunch bag, but it’s a versatile size for either a child or an adult.  Of course you can modify the size to your liking.

What you need:

  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the bag body – canvas, denim, interior fabric, or other sturdy fabric is recommended.
  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the lining and the drawstring top – any lightweight woven fabric, like quilting cotton, will do.
  • 1 yard of cotton webbing for the bag handles (or you can make your own).
  • About 1.5 yard of plaited cord, ribbon, or any other material for the drawstring.

Step 1: Cut all the fabric pieces

  • Main bag body: (13″ x 12″) x 2 pieces
  • Lining: (13″ x 12″) x 2 pieces
  • Drawstring top: (13″ x 6″) x 2 pieces
  • 2 x cotton webbing in the desired handle length (plus 1″ for seam allowance)

photo of all the cut pieces for drawstring tote bag

Step 2: Prepare the drawstring top

(1) Overlock or zig zag stitch the sides of each piece (just the two sides; you don’t have to overlock the top and bottom edges)

photo showing overlocking or zig zag finishing the sides of thedrawstring top

(2) Mark with a pencil at 2.5″ from the top, on each side.  Sew the two drawstring top pieces together on each side, starting at the marked points and all the way down (again, just the side seams – don’t sew the bottom seam together). Sew at 1/2″ seam allowance.

photo showing how to sew the side seam of a drawstring top

(3) Press the side seams open, and from the wrong side, sew all the way around the open top sides.  Like this:

photo showing how to sew the top side seams of a drawstring top

(4) Fold the top seams over twice, making sure you leave enough space inside to thread your drawstring cord.  Stitch very close to the folded edge.

photo showing how to sew the top of drawstring bag

Step 3: Prepare the bag body and the lining

(1) With the right side of fabric pieces together, sew all the way around the three sides of the main bag body, at 1/2″ seam allowance.  Repeat for the lining – except leave about 4″ of seam unsewn (so you can turn the bag inside out later on).  I tend to leave this opening in the middle of a side seam.  But it doesn’t matter where really, as long as the opening ins’t too close to the corners.

Photo showing how to sew the sides and bottom seams of the bag and lining

(2) Cut the corners off and sew the gussets.

Mark about a 1.5″ square on the bottom corners of the main bag and the lining.  I measure this length not from the edge of the fabric, but from the sewn line.  Cut the squares off.

a photo of fabric with corners cut off for gussets

Tease each corner open, and sew at 3/8″ seam allowance.  Repeat for the remaining corners.

a photo showing how to sew a gusset

Step 4: Assemble all the pieces together

(1) Mark where you want to attach the bag handles, and sew them on to the top of the body, at about 1/4″ from the top, to the right side of the bag body.  Make sure the handles are attached in the inverse position, with the handles facing south.

photo showing how to baste handles on a bag body

(2) Layer the drawstring top over the main bag body, at the top, with the right sides of the fabrics facing together.  Make sure the finished edge of the drawstring flap (the part where you thread the cord) is facing south.

(3) Now, layer the lining over the drawstring top, with the right side of the lining facing the wrong side of the drawstring flap.  Basically, you are layering all three pieces together, with the drawstring top sandwiched in between the main bag and lining.  I hope it makes sense.

photo showing how to assemble three layers of bag parts together

(4) Pin the three layers together at the side seams, making sure all the three side seams are matching up.

(5) Sew the three layers together, all the way around the bag, at about 1/2″ from the raw edge.  If you sew slowly, while gently pulling the fabrics towards you as you sew, everything should match up more easily.  Press the seam (it’s always a good idea to press over a sewn seam for a cleaner finish).

Step 5: Finishing up

You are nearly done!

(1) Turn the bag inside out from the opening in the lining.  Press the top seam open.

(2) Tuck the lining and the drawstring top inside the main bag, and press the top seam again.

(3) Top stitch all the way around the top edge of the bag (very close to the edge, at about 1/8″ from the top).

photo showing the topstitching at the top of the bag

(4) If everything looks good, sew the opening in the lining shut.  Being lazy, I always use a sewing machine, but blind stitching by hand will make a more beautiful finish.

(5) Thread your drawstring cords at desired length.  A bodkin will come in very handy if you have one.  If not, a safety pin will do.

 

And that’s it!  Yay!  If you don’t want to use the drawstring closure, just tuck the flap inside, and you can use it as a regular tote bag.

photo showing the inside of a finished drawstring tote bag

And if you were looking to make a lined tote bag without the drawstring closure, just omit making the drawstring top from this tutorial.  You might want to attach a set of magnetic buttons to the lining though.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 comments to Tutorial: drawstring tote bag

  • Rebekka Drewes

    Great tutorial! I just made two of them as christmas for my sister for knitting projects. They are really cute and so practical. Probably I will sew some up for myself, when I have som time. Thank you!

  • LiLing Lim

    I love this tutorial!! But I can’t seem to find a canvas thick enough to stand on its own like yours. Did you put a base on yours or use an interfacing?

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